Software-based eyesight regeneration project

New. VISION

Bring back light to a blind eye

The NEW.VISION project aims at helping blind people restore their eyesight using software control to restore damaged photoreceptor cell functions. This is a big challenge, but not unachievable. The application and development of software technologies have brought us to a stage where we can pursue their clinical use. Based on these efforts, we will do as much as possible to help blind people regain their eyesight and see what is before them.

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NEW.VISIONis

Using regenerative medicine to control photoreceptor cells with software

The aim of the project is to unequivocally enable blind people to see what is in front of them and to read and write, simply by wearing the NEW-VISION glasses developed in this project. The glasses have special functions for controlling photoreceptor cells via data signals from software. Combined with gene therapy, the signal data control created by the built-in software in the NEW-VISION glasses helps blind people to regain their eyesight by simply wearing the glasses. The project enable visually impaired people or those who are completely blind to see things (regain their eyesight) simply by wearing special glasses. This is the world’s first project of its kind which has entered the verification stage. The project aims to enable the wearers to see all colors and everything surrounding them. As of February 2017, an experiment with rats has been completed and the technology is under research, development and experiment in the preclinical stage. In the future, priority will be given to user’s convenience. Moreover, the glasses have the possibility to evolve into the form of contact lenses.

As much as possible, we will disseminate information about the status of the project and related efforts. This should mark the first step toward bringing back light to the eyes of blind people, and is an effort to make the great leap forward to the commercialization of software technology targeting cells and organisms, in addition to merely controlling the system.

NEW.VISION
will target users with:

  • retinitis pigmentosa;
  • age-related macular degeneration; or
  • retinal detachment

NEW.VISION

Target and challenges

The first target of NEW-VISION is retinitis pigmentosa, a disease of the photoreceptor cells, which are the cells capable of sensing light in the deepest part of the eye. The injection of a gene therapy agent enables the cells in the eye that are directly connected with the brain (ganglion cells) to receive light and facilitates the recovery of eyesight. The software-based control (special control of visible image signals) of the optic nerve cells transmits signals to the brain and maintains the regeneration of eyesight at a satisfactory level. The glasses are equipped with a camera that converts an image into optimal data via software before the image is captured so that the data is directly transmitted to the ganglion cells and recognized by the brain. *Eyes do not see things: the brain recognizes the images captured by the eyes. In other words, the brain sees the images.

All vision and images are signal data. Based on this common knowledge of basic technologies, Dr. Tomita, professor, and Dr. Sugano, associate professor, of Tomita Laboratory lead the development of technology for rendering some damaged functions in the eye (photoreceptor cells) controllable by software, thereby enabling the eyes to see. This approach has already been logically demonstrated and the recovery of eyesight has been demonstrated in an experiment using rats.

Connect everything and control it using software

  • MOBICOM
  • JIG-SAW

Our Group’s basic technology for signal control plays a significant role in the software-based control of photoreceptor cells.

One effort related to this project is a clinical study that commenced in 2016 in the United States with the objective of restoring sight of only the color blue. (Dr. Tomita, leader of the project, is also very involved in the U.S. clinical study and is a leading figure in the eyesight regeneration area of gene therapy.) However, the clinical study leaves much to be desired in terms of complete regeneration of eyesight and restoration of the sight of light. For example, suppose that a blue cup is on a table in a room. A person that only regained sight for the color blue could only see the blue cup, but not the table or the room overall. The blue cup would be everything the person could see. The person’s field of vision would have no other spatial awareness. It would be difficult for the person to see where the cup was located or how far it was from him, let alone the room and the table.